A long time ago when I was in middle school I overhead these two girls next to me talking about some Atheist they knew. One of them mentioned “But they celebrate Christmas, you can’t be an Atheist and celebrate Christian holidays!” and had a good laugh.
And to be honest it really pissed me off.
And for a quite few years I didn’t know why. I wasn’t Pagan, or an Atheist or a Christian, or anything really back then. Religion wasn’t discussed in my family. My two older sisters went to church with their father every Sunday* and I was always thankful I never had to go. That was about the extent of talk of religion in my family. So I didn’t know why that comment by my classmate annoyed me so much.
Then it began to fall together when I began to study and get into Paganism. I celebrated Christmas and Easter with my family and still do today. But back then I was much more new and insecure and confused about what it was I believed in. I fretted that celebrating these Christian holidays people would think I wasn’t a “real” Pagan. And that’s absolutely ridiculous. As mentioned above my family isn’t religious, however I believe my parents fall into the lapsed Christian category. Either way, here is an example to demonstrate my pitiful lack of knowledge on religion when I was a child: during Christmas most of our decorations were of Santa Claus and snowmen and the typical commercial images of Christmas. There were the few excepts, the main religious decoration was a statue set of the Nativity of Jesus. When I looked at it as a child I always thought “What does this have to do with Christmas?”.
My family doesn’t celebrate holidays in a religious context. There might be religious symbolism in certain actions or items, but these things are simply tradition. For me these days are family holidays. They’re rare moments my family can get together and have a good time.** My family celebrates the commercialized holidays. So since religious beliefs aren’t really included I see no reason to separate myself from them. And even if there were what am I going to do? Lock myself in my room and be like “Sorry, that’s not my religion. I’m just going to not be a part of this family for today.” Seriously? Besides I see open Pagan circles all the time where Pagans of all strips can come join in the ritual or feast or whatever, and nobody blinks twice at those! I mean if you personally don’t feel comfortable being a part of your family’s celebration on the holidays and wish no part of it, than that’s fine. But excluding oneself is no more right or wrong than joining in the celebrations. So I strongly believe that celebrating Christmas or Easter with family doesn’t suddenly make you any less of a Pagan/Atheist/Whatever.
*My two older sisters are half-sisters, they have a different father.
**I know most people dislike the holidays because of relatives but I love it for that reason. My family gets along, we have fun together. It probably helps by the fact that my family is pretty small.